A research mission has captured incredible footage of Cuba’s Twilight Zone Reefs, a never-before explored underwater area that circumnavigates the island. The coral reefs encircle 1500 miles of Cuban coastline but have never been closely studied by scientists or divers until now.
Divers and scientists spent a month exploring what they call the ‘mesophotic reefs’, which were found between 30 and 150 metres below the surface. Some of the video is spectacular with visions of underwater habitats that look almost as if from another world, brightly coloured and teeming with life.
This YouTube footage gives a flavour of what they discovered across forty-three separate dives. The mission led by a team from Florida Atlantic University used remotely-operated underwater vehicles along with more traditional snorkelling excursions. “Except for a few places along the coast prior to this expedition,” they said, “there were virtually no data or charts indicating what was beyond the shallow reef zone.” The voyage resulted in nearly 20,000 underwater photographs, 100 hours of high definition video, and a collection of more than 500 marine plants and animals.
As well as exploring the twilight reefs for the first time, they also discovered new species of sponges. Altogether, they found 123 different species of fish, including lots of different grouper and snappers, as well as some of the richest coral landscapes in the entire Caribbean. John K. Reed of Florida Atlantic University said: “we were thrilled to discover that overall, the majority of the reefs that we explored are very healthy and nearly pristine compared to many reefs found in the US.
“We saw little evidence of coral disease or coral bleaching, and evidence of human impact was limited to some lost long [fishing] lines at some of the sites.” They said several of the areas they surveyed were so important that they should be turned into marine protected areas to help guard the rich variety of sea life there.